Giving bad faith arguments the FLICC

Posted 4 Jul

Lisa Bailey

What do climate change, evolution and upcoming referendum on The Voice to Parliament all have in common?
Their opponents often use similar sorts of rhetorical tactics to create doubt and confusion. John Cook is a behavioural scientist who has studied the kinds of arguments used in climate denial over decades. His FLICC framework is a handy guide for spotting the kinds of bad faith arguments we’re seeing this year in the lead up to the Voice referendum. These categories include Fake Debate, Logical Fallacies, Impossible Expectations, Cherry Picking and Conspiracy Theories.
Fake Debate is when you get “both sides-ism” or there is a magnified minority which gets disproportionate media attention. While exact numbers can vary from poll to poll, around 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people support a voice.
Logical Fallacies are arguments that can sound convincing but are based on faulty logic. This can include things like false analogies, stating the Voice “is like apartheid”. If you’ve heard people argue that the Voice won’t solve all the problems for First Nations Australians, this is true! It’s also a misrepresentation of the argument. It oversimplifies the position to make it easier to refute. A Voice to Parliament won’t solve everything. It is one part of a three part plan for Voice, Treaty, Truth of Uluru Statement of the Heart.
Impossible Expectations are when unrealistic standards of certainty are demanded before acting. You might have heard of the saying “Moving the goalposts” – where there will never be enough evidence even if you do provide some. You can see this argument when there are requests made to see more detail on legislation first, despite published detailed reports on the proposed model for the Voice available.
Cherry Picking is focusing on data that confirms one position while ignoring other data. This can also take the form of “quote mining” where quotes are used incomplete, or out of context. These then misrepresent the position of people (often without their consent).
Conspiracy Theories involve hiding a truth or perpetuating misinformation – e.g. that The Voice will be a third chamber that has veto power or that the proposed referendum would ‘erase’ the 1967 referendum results. These have been widely debunked but continue to be shared on social media. The AEC has found that there is a worrying trend of increasing misinformation being spread online.
If you want to build up your critical thinking skills and build resilience against misinformation, try out the Cranky Uncle Game .

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